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Friday, 29 April 2011

Baron Lister of Lyme Regis

Joseph Lister (1827 - 1912) was a surgeon who is best remembered as a pioneer of antiseptic surgery. His use of carbolic steam sprays (such as the one illustrated on the left) to disinfect wards and operating theatres greatly reduced the spread of deadly bacteria such as MRSA. Lister's name became synonymous with medical hygiene: Listerine mouthwash, although not invented by Lister himself, was named in his honour.

Joseph Lister wasn’t the only scientist in his family: his younger brother Arthur (1830 - 1908) was a pioneer in the field of myxomycetology -- the study of slime moulds! The two of them, Joseph and Arthur, bought a holiday home in Lyme Regis in 1871. This property, High Cliff, remained in the Lister family until 1929. In particular, Arthur's daughter Gulielma Lister (1860 - 1949), known as "Miss Gulie", was very active in local life. She followed in her father's footsteps, becoming a prominent myxomycetologist in her own right. She was one of the first presidents of the British Mycological Society, as well as a vice-president of the prestigious Linnaean Society.

When Joseph was raised to the peerage in 1897, he chose the title Baron Lister of Lyme Regis. The rather blurred photograph below, from the museum's collection, shows a historic view of Joseph Lister at work in a hospital ward.
 Joseph, Arthur and Gulielma Lister are just three of the many famous people who have chosen to spend their holidays in Lyme Regis... to find out about some of the others, see Notable People of Lyme.



Picky point.... MRSA didn't exist then!

Andrew May said...

Gosh, I never knew that! I thought it had been around since time immemorial. So for "deadly bacteria such as MRSA" read "deadly bacteria analogous to the MRSA of today"!